How Important Is Clemency For Trafficking Victims? Let One Tell YouApril 26, 2020
Readers of this newspaper and its editorials will know the name Robbie Ann Hamilton. On Jan. 11, Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Gov. Greg Abbott granted Hamilton, a North Dallas survivor of sex trafficking lured into the life at the age of 15 while suffering from drug addiction, a full pardon for petty crimes committed decades ago while she was being sold for sex.
In announcing the pardon, Gov. Abbott rightly described Hamilton, now 58 and a brave advocate and mentor for victims of trafficking, as “a testament to the principle that our lives are not defined by how we are challenged. Rather they are defined by how we respond to those challenges.” She demonstrated, he said, “the internal fortitude to turn her life away from being a victim of human and sex trafficking and toward a life of redemption and improving her community.”
So, we ask, who better than Hamilton to understand the legal and moral significance of the governor’s Feb. 20 announcement that he, in coordination with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (BPP), had established a “customized clemency application specifically for survivors of human trafficking or domestic violence”? Under the new protocol, Texas inmates and those seeking clemency will be allowed to cite their experiences as victims of sex trafficking, coercion and violence when requesting relief from the BPP.
Last week, Hamilton explained to us what a meaningful and historic change this new path toward clemency is for survivors like herself, but also in the way our state criminal justice system views trafficking victims, the great majority of whom are forced to commit the crimes that keep the global $150 billion human-trafficking industry — two-thirds of which is sex trafficking — in business.
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